I’m Finally Ready
In the winter of my junior year of college, the brief phenomenon known as Streaking streaked through our campus. Boys in thick work boots and wool hats and nothing else ran by the women’s dorms every evening.
One night, a dozen boys staged a relay. We watched from our windows as they ran by in one-minute intervals. We cheered like mad for each one, and didn’t mind that they could all have been just one guy – they were interchangeable in their blue-skinned sameness.
About an hour later the gaggle of them reconvened (dressed) to holler from the yard that it was the girls’ turn.
We discussed this both laughingly and seriously, and decided that we would stage a different kind of show. An exhibition rather than a run. Yes, we were classy girls.
Because the exhibitionists would be coming out of our own dorm, and because they wouldn’t be a bouncy blur, we were a little more worried about anonymity than the boys. So my roommate donated a mardi gras mask and her long velvet cape. It was a two-act show – first a blonde and then a brunette went out. Each girl walked slowly to the middle of the snowy yard, and then dramatically opened the cape.
The boys applauded with profound appreciation.
I won’t identify the girls, except to say that neither was me.
Fourteen years later, I was an up-and-coming young executive (and thirty-five is STILL young; so shut up) – in desperate need of a little vacation. I just needed to take a short break from the long days and cold winter.
I had two problems – I couldn’t find anyone who wanted to go with me, and I couldn’t get a last-minute reservation at any of the good resorts.
A tourist-agent friend solved both my issues. She made me a reservation at Club Med in Haiti. Club Med was still the hot-spot resort – but Haiti wasn’t exactly top-tier. And Club Med would assign me a roommate, so I would have someone built-in to have my meals with.
After a ride in a scary old plane and an even scarier bus trip through unimaginably ugly towns, I arrived for a long weekend at a resort in the poorest country in the western hemisphere.
The weather was gorgeous, the beach was perfect, and my roommate turned out to be a very nice woman my own age. Not so bad.
Haiti was not a vacation destination for Americans. Including me and my new just-for-the-weekend friend, there were six of us. The other eighty guests were French nationals.
There is a difference between French women and American women. An American woman will show off her body if it is beautiful. To a French woman, her body just IS beautiful. The French women at Club Med wore bikini bottoms only. All the women: the old, the young, the skinny, the voluptuous.
I was mesmerized. Mesmerized by women walking on the beach, lounging by the pool. One young mother played with her children, read paperbacks, and chatted – with her parents. She was all but naked… in front of her father. Her mother was also nearly naked, and read her magazine with her breasts comfortably drooping against her round belly. I could hardly imagine it. These ladies bared their breasts like breasts were something natural.
On my last evening in Haiti, I went down to the beach, dropped my bikini top, and ran into the water. I was French!
Of course, there was no one there, and I redressed as quickly as I could.
It’s been forty years since I didn’t walk out naked for some enthusiastic college boys.
It’s been twenty-six years since I almost got naked on a Haitian beach.
I see now that these moments would not have changed my life.
I want a do-over.
I’m sixty-one. Before I’m seventy I want to go to a clothing-optional beach, and avail myself of the option. I’m not going to worry about whether my body is something I’m proud of. I’m proud of it because it’s mine. I’m French.